Birmingham schools: the ‘plot’ thickens

April 16, 2014 at 5:34 pm (Brum, children, Education, islamism, labour party, posted by JD, religion, secularism, unions, youth)

Events surrounding the so-called Trojan Horse allegations in Birmingham have taken a further, bizarre, twist with the appointment, yesterday, of Peter Clarke, former head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, to investigate claims about the city’s schools.

Regular readers will remember our previous , very cautious, coverage of the Trojan Horse document, which purports to be a letter from a Birmingham-based Islamic fundamentalist to a contact in Bradford, describing tactics used to take over Birmingham schools and boasting of success in forcing out head teachers who resisted the islamification of their schools: the document talks about forcing out the leadership team where a school is “corrupting their children with sex education , teaching about homosexuals, making children pray Christian prayers and [carrying out] mixed swimming and sport.”  We have already pointed out that the letter, which contains some accurate information not previously in the public domain, but also some inaccuracies, may be a hoax.

Last week the city council announced a freeze on the recruitment of school governors while it investigates the claims into at least 25 schools, including three run by the Park View Educational Trust. The council stated that it had received more than 200 reports in relation to its enquiry and has appointed former  head teacher Ian Kershaw to head up the investigation. Council leader Albert Bore stated that “there are certainly issues in Bradford which have similarities with the issues being spoken about in Birmingham.” He also went on to express frustration with the council’s lack of influence over academies, stating “we do not have the relationship with academies as we do with community schools.”

Then yesterday, Michael Gove announced the appointment of Pater Clarke to head what is, in effect, a parallel investigation. Albert Bore, together with West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims and Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, immediately condemned the appointment, with Bore stating that Sims’ anti-terror background would “inevitably” lead people to “draw unwarranted conclusions.” The area’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Labour’s Bob Jones, added, “My main concern is that the Secretary of State is attempting to divert attention away from the governance and diversity issues that might be embarrassing to his policies and approach to school governance.”

Bore, Jones and the others are undoubtedly right about this “desperately unfortunate” appointment, and about the hypocrisy of Gove who promotes academies (and now free schools)  outside the control of local authorities, whilst simultaneously decrying the influence of Islamic extremists over  academies in Birmingham.

And it is important to note that whether or not the Trojan Horse document proves to be genuine, there is no doubt about the influence of Islamic fundamentalists over many Birmingham schools: teachers and other school staff members have already come forward with reports of segregation of boys and girls in classes and assemblies, bans on sex education and bullying of non-Muslim staff. Shiraz Socialist has spoken to several Birmingham teachers, including activists within the main teaching unions, who have confirmed that these claims are true and, in some cases, such things have been going on for years. The all-too predictable line taken by an article in today’s Guardian (“Despite reasonable evidence suggesting the plot letter is a hoax, it has spaked debate in the city, with far right groups looking to capitalise”) simply will not do: the concerns about Islamic fundamentalists undermining secular education are not the preserve of the far right, but are felt by teachers, Labour councillors and MPs and -not least - many Muslim parents who want their kids to have an inclusive, secular education.

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The alleged ‘Jihadist plot’ to take over Birmingham schools

March 12, 2014 at 10:41 pm (Brum, children, crime, Education, islamism, Johnny Lewis, law, religion, religious right, sectarianism, Tory scum)

Shiraz Socialist has for some time been in possession of documents that seem to show a conspiracy by Islamists to exploit the Tories’ academy programme in order to take over schools. We have, up until now, refrained from using this material or commenting upon it, because we were not clear on its provenance and not satisfied of its authenticity. There must, properly, be the suspicion that the documents have been faked in order to stir up anti-Muslim feeling. However, this material is now in the public domain (the Birmingham Mail, the Independent, the Daily Mail and the Times have all carried articles), so we’ve decided it’s time for us to cover the story.

Firstly, what do the documents contain?

The documents’ central and most alarming content is what seems to be a letter from a Birmingham Muslim fundamentalist to a co-thinker in Bradford.

This details a five-point guide called ‘Trojan Horse’, for taking over schools and urges the rolling out ‘Trojan Horse’ to Bradford and then Manchester, boasting that  considerable success has been achieved in schools in predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham

The documents outline alleged successful plots carried out against a number of Birmingham headteachers and other members of staff.

The documents also give a step-by-step guide for targeting “under-performing” schools with dirty tricks methods, involving the spreading of lies about the school heads.

The recipient is first urged to identify any Salafi (ie: hard-line fundamentalist)  parents sending pupils to the school.

‘They are always the most committed to the faith and are hardliners in that regard and once charged up they keep going for longer,’ says the letter.

‘When the parents have been identified, we start to turn them against the headteacher and leadership team.

‘The only way to do this is to tell each parent that the school is corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and mixed swimming and sport.

‘If you can get them to be very vocal in the playground as they drop off or pick up their children that will stir up other parents.

‘The parents MUST be given direction and told not to discuss this with anyone, you only need a maximum of four parents to disrupt the whole school, to send in complaints to question their child’s education and to contact their MP and local authority.’

Once the head has been forced out, Islamist governors push through plans to make the schools academies.

The academy status, as promoted by the Tories, allows them to be run out of the control of the local authority, with funding provided direct from central government.

The letter states: ‘’Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ has been very carefully thought through and is tried and tested within Birmingham, implementing it in Bradford will not be difficult for you.’’

Trojan Horse, the letter states, has been fine-tuned so that it is ‘totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar. I have detailed the plan we have in Birmingham and how well it has worked and you will see how easy the whole process is to get the whole process is to get the head teacher out and our own person in.’’

The documents propose that schools with poor Ofsted reports and with large Muslim student populations should be targeted for takeover.

They add: ‘’The poor performing schools are easy to disrupt, the better performing with strong head teachers is much harder and so we have to manufacture a strong enough reason, but rest assured we have not failed yet, no matter how difficult removing the head teacher may be. You just have to be clever and find the most appropriate way to deal with the school.’’

The documents add: ‘’This is all about causing the maximum amount of organised chaos and we have fine-tuned this as part of operation Trojan Horse. You must identify what the heads strengths are and build a case of disruption around that.’’

One passage reads: “We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools … Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a ‘jihad’ and as such all means possible to win the war is acceptable.”

Yesterday’s Times (11 March) drew attention to “glaring errors” in the letter, suggesting that it might be a fake. The main “glaring error” is a reference to  the ousting of the former head of Springfield School in Sparkhill/ Moseley, Birmingham. The letter states “We did this perfectly to Noshaba Hussain from Springfield School. However, the Governors reappointed her so now we have another plan in place to get her out.” In fact, Ms Hussain was dismissed in 1994 and was not reinstated. The Times also states that “the crudeness of the apparent forgery is underlined by another error. It identifies two Birmingham schools where the plotters claim credit for removing head teachers late last year. However, the author seems to have muddled up their departure dates.”

The Times goes on to quote Tahir Alam, a former “education chief” at the Muslim Council of Britain, and named in the letter as involved in the plot: “This ridiculous assertion is based entirely upon a leaked document nonsensically referred to as ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ … the authenticity of which any decent and fair-minded person would question and quickly conclude as a hoax. Any reference to me is a malicious fabrication and completely untrue.”

As against this, Shiraz can report that we’ve spoken to a number of teachers from some of the schools named in the documents, and they are of the opinion that the documents are probably genuine – if only because their content tallies with verifiable events in at least two of the schools named in the documents. The former headteacher of Saltley School, Balwant Bains (who we have not spoken to) is reported as saying he was “bullied and intimidated” in the months before he resigned last November after clashing with the school’s governors. The Birmingham Mail (10 March) reported that “Friends claim the respected head, of Sikh origin, was undermined when governors over-turned his decision to expel a Muslim pupil found with a knife. The harassment of Bains included an anonymous text message branding him a “racist, Islamophobic Head teacher.” Five non-Muslim governors of the school have resigned, leaving 12 Muslim governors out of 14. The problems at Saltley School began, according to our sources, when Mr Bains was asked by governors to make curriculum changes, including the scrapping of sex education and citizenship classes because they were allegedly deemed “un-Islamic”. He was, we’ve been told, instructed to introduce Islamic studies into the curriculum and told that only halal food should be served to pupils, even though Saltley is a non-faith school. Mr Bains resigned after an Ofsted report concluded that he had a “dysfunctional” relationship with the school’s governors.

Shiraz has also been told by Birmingham teachers that at another school named in the documents, Adderley Primary,  four Teaching Assistants have been forced out following the school’s receipt of resignation letters that the four denied having written. As a result of the ‘Trojan Horse’ documents the police have now re-opened their fraud investigation into the letters. At least one of the Teaching Assistants is now pursuing an unfair dismissal claim.

Shiraz Socialist will be following this bizarre affair and will report on developments. In the meanwhile, whether or not the ‘Trojan Horse’ documents prove to be genuine, what is clear is that the Tories’ academy programme is opening up education to religious fanatics, sectarians and bigots, making a mockery of the government’s proclaimed commitment to social inclusion.

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The Mail and Sun’s “paedophile” campaign

March 1, 2014 at 1:37 am (child abuse, children, Daily Mail, Jim D, labour party, Murdoch, relativism, truth)

Now The Sun (which, like the Mail, has a record of publishing pictures of young girls with little clothing on) joins in:

'Labour chiefs: It’s OK to have sex with 10-yr-olds' - The Sun exposes full horror of paedophile plan: http://bit.ly/1cZTtNa

Look, the truth is that back in the seventies, the left (reformist and revolutionary) was all over the shop on this issue. I’m pleased to say that my comrades and I (in what’s now the AWL) took a firm line on the question of under-aged sex and supported the principle of an age of consent (gay and straight) of around 15 or 16 – but there were some on the left who didn’t. Even a candidate for leadership of the Labour Party (in 1992), Bryan Gould, expressed sympathy with PIE, in a letter politely declining their invitation to him to sponsor their campaign.

The fact that some now-respectable figures in the Labour Party didn’t regard this as a  particularly worrying issue, and didn’t protest about the PIE’s affiliation to the NCCL at the time, is symptomatic of the way things were then. That doesn’t make it OK, but it’s how it was, as the left struggled to come to terms with sexual politics, and sophisticated paedophiles cynically utilised the gay rights/sexual liberation agenda to legitimise their cause in the eyes of naïve idiots on sections of the left at the time.

It’s significant that amongst the loudest voices raising the alarm about the PIE at the time were gay activists, who didn’t want to be associated with paedophilia.

The far left, with one or two exceptions (the IMG and the pre-fusion WSL, neither of which now exist) was hostile to the PIE.

I know it’s what old gropers and their apologists always say, but on this matter it’s true: the past is another country. That doesn’t excuse those who were negligent and/or indifferent at the time, but it is the context.

And, certainly, the Sun and the Mail have no right to witch-hunt anyone over this .

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Respect to Fahma Mohamed!

February 27, 2014 at 10:18 pm (child abuse, children, Education, Guardian, Human rights, misogyny, posted by JD, women)

For once, the Guardian is on the right side

Glyn Harries (via Facebook) writes:

Respect due to Fahma Mohamed  (above)

She started this petition and got nearly 250,000 supporters and forced Michael Gove to take action. Ok that will not stop the abuse of FGM but it is a start …

“You wouldn’t think school girls in the UK have to worry about female genital mutilation (FGM), but we do. Although it is illegal in the UK, it is still happening – 24,000 girls in the UK are currently at risk of FGM. People just don’t talk about it, doctors don’t check for it and teachers don’t teach (about) it

FGM is child abuse. It forces girls into a future of pain from the moment they are cut. They face the risk of infertility, pain during urination, menstruation, childbirth and sexual intercourse. The pain doesn’t go. It’s a traumatic experience they have to live with every single day, physically and emotionally.

That’s why I’ve started this campaign with The Guardian.

I know of people who have been cut – anyone who knows girls from FGM affected communities will know girls who have been cut. We were told Ofsted would be asking schools what they are doing to protect these girls from FGM, but it never happened.

Me and my classmates campaigned for our school to do more on FGM. Now all the girls at school know the risks of FGM and feel able to talk about it. But this is one school. We need this to happen at every school in the country – so that no girl is missed.

We need to act now. Many girls are sent away to be cut over the summer holidays. Some are cut at home. They call it the ‘cutting season’. If every headteacher was given the information they need to talk about FGM to students and parents we could reach every girl who is at risk before the holidays. We could convince families not to send their daughters to be cut and we can help girls who are at risk. We could break the cycle so the next generation is safe.

That’s why I’m calling for Michael Gove to get schools to teach about FGM before the summer holidays.

 Michael Gove — we’re serious, we’re not going to back down and we won’t go away.” 

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/educationgovuk-tell-schools-to-teach-risks-of-female-genital-mutilation-before-the-summer-endfgm

Latest: “We did it! We met Education Secretary Michael Gove and he agreed to write to all primary and secondary headteachers in England about female genital mutilation” says Fahma.

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Thunderclap for the children of Syria

January 12, 2014 at 10:34 am (children, Education, hell, Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, posted by JD, solidarity, Syria, UN)

I’ve received this, and would urge you all to respond:

Dear Jim,

Since you’re the type of person who believes no child should be left without an education, we’re writing to you with an important update on the crisis of Syrian refugee children. Back in September, A World at School delivered a petition at the United Nations calling on world leaders to provide education for nearly 400,000 Syrian children exiled in Lebanon.

Since then, leaders have developed a plan to deliver education in the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The plan is now ready to go and on Wednesday, major international donors will be asked to pledge their support for humanitarian relief to help victims of the Syrian conflict.

Now we need you to send a message to the international donor community to make the plan reality and get these children back to school.

Join our Thunderclap this Tuesday to call for swift action.

It can be done. Public support has put the issue on the table and pressure is growing for immediate action. We need you to remind the world’s leaders why they have to do something NOW.

We cannot let up. More than 5,000 young people are fleeing the conflict each week into Lebanon alone. Without education they face becoming a lost generation.

Click here and help make A World at School a reality for Syrian children.

PS: Join the Youth Education Crisis Committee Google Hangout this January 15 to learn more about how to create @aworldatschool for #childrenofsyria: http://bit.ly/KFCYeN

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One hundred years ago: the Dublin lock-out

December 30, 2013 at 11:34 am (Catholicism, children, class, history, Human rights, internationalism, Ireland, posted by JD, religion, republicanism, solidarity, unions, workers)

Not very much attention has been paid to the centenary of the Dublin lock-out, which was reaching its tragic denouement this time in 1913, as near-starvation, together with the TUC’s failure to organise solidarity strike action, began to drive the trade unionists back to work, which often also involved having to sign pledges renouncing union membership.

Thanks to Terry Glavin (via Facebook) for drawing my attention to Des Geraghty’s splendid documentary. Terry writes, “To the blessed memory of Big Jim Larkin and the centenary of the 1913 Frithdhúnadh Mór Baile-Átha-Cliath, the 1913 workers’ uprising in Dublin. An hour well spent, splendid documentary film-making here”:

Below: Sean Matgamna describes events, with particular emphasis on the role of the Catholic church in sabotaging efforts to move the starving children of the locked-out workers to England where they would be fed:

Dublin 1913: Against the priests and the bosses

By Sean Matgamna

In the years before the First World War, the great Jim Larkin organised the savagely oppressed workers of Ireland’s capital city and made them a power in Ireland.

Organisation, labour solidarity, the sympathetic strike by workers not directly in dispute—these were their weapons. These weapons began to mark them out as no longer a driven rabble but a class, women and men increasingly conscious of a common interest, a common identity and common goals.

The bosses organised a ‘union’ too and fought back.

Their leader was WM Murphy, one of Ireland’s biggest capitalists, and a prominent Home Rule nationalist politician. In August1913, they locked out their employees, intent on using starvation to get them to submit and foreswear “Larkinism”. The British state in Ireland backed them, sending hordes of police to attack strikers, some of whom were beaten to death. It turned into a war of attrition.

Here, fighting impoverished workers with no reserves, all the advantages were with the employers. The workers’ chance of victory depended on two things: on an adequate supply of food or money from sympathisers, and on an industrial solidarity that would tie up the whole trade of Dublin. It was to the British labour movement that Dublin’s workers had to look for help.

Magnificent help came. Ships full of food for the strikers came up the Liffey, and all over Britain the labour movement rallied, collecting money and food. But industrial action did not come, and that was decisive: money and food would keep Dublin’s workers in the fight, but only industrial action in Britain —by the NUR and the Seamen’s Union, for example—would allow them to win.

In Britain, militants argued for industrial action, even for a general strike, in support of Dublin. But the trade union leaders—who held a special conference in December 1913 on Dublin—would not agree to take action.

The strike dragged on 8 months, and then, beaten but not crushed, the union, whose destruction had been the bosses’ prime aim still intact, the last workers went back to work, or accepted that they had been sacked.

What follows is the story of an episode in this struggle, the attempt to move starving Dublin children to homes in Britain where they would be fed. It is told as much as possible in the words of Dora B Montefiore, who—62 years-old and in frail health—organised it.

In mid October 19l3, two months into the strike, Dora Montefiore spoke in the Memorial Hall, London—one  of many enormous meetings being held all over Britain to build support for the Transport Workers’ Union. As she sat on the platform listening to Larkin talk of Dublin, Montefiore remembered what had been done to save the children of strikers during bitter battles in Belgium and in the USA.

When Larkin sat down she passed a note along the table suggesting that the starving children of working-class Dublin should be evacuated from the labour-war zone, to be looked after by the British labour movement for the duration of the strike. Would he, she asked, back such a scheme?

Larkin passed a reply back along the table: yes, he would. He thought it was a fine idea.

Montefiore then passed a note to another of the speakers, the Countess of Warwick — an unlikely but genuine socialist — asking if she would be the Treasurer. Warwick replied: Yes. So a committee was set up.

Next day, Dora Montefiore explained her plan in the Daily Herald. Soon they had offers of 350 places for children, and more were coming all the time. Labour movement bodies, trade union branches and trades councils offered to take the responsibility for one or more children. So did sections of the militant suffragettes, the WSPU. It was not as critics said and the Stalinist historian Desmond Greaves repeats in the official history of the ITGWU, an irresponsible stunt by busy-bodies, but a properly organised part of the effort of British labour to help Dublin. Dora Montefiore reported to the readers of the Daily Herald on 14 October:

“From Glasgow, Liverpool, London and a dozen other places, come the welcome offers, and I know that if the Dublin mothers could read  some of the letters, it would do their hearts good to know the sort of mothers and fathers who are planning these temporary homes for their little ones.

“Several Roman Catholics have written and one friend offers ‘travelling, lodging and board expenses for two Dublin children while the strike lasts’, and suggests ‘boarding them for a time in a convent in Liverpool or London”‘.

And on 17 October she wrote:

“…Plymouth friends offered to house 40 children and 5 mothers, and they wired later that they were in communication with the Catholic parish priest and Catholic medical officer re the care of the ‘kiddies”‘.

On 17 October, Dora Montefiore, Lucille Rand and Grace Neal, a TU organiser who acted as secretary, went to Dublin to organise the migration of the children.

They were given a room at Liberty Hall, the Transport Union HQ and a meeting of wives of strikers was called. These mothers of hungry children eagerly grasped at this offer of help.

“Meetings of wives of the locked-out workers were then called, and we three delegates from the English and Scottish workers gave our message and laid the scheme before them. As a result Grace Neal was kept busy Tuesday and Wednesday registering the names of mothers who were anxious to take advantage of our offer. The passage leading to our room was blocked ’til evening with women and children. We tried to let them in only one at a time, but each time the door opened the crush was so great that often two or three mothers forced their way in….

“When the work of registration was over, 50 children were selected to meet Lucille Rand at the Baths, where a trained woman had been engaged to clean their heads and bodies [of lice, which were endemic]… Grace Neal presided over a batch of volunteer workers at our room in Liberty Hall, who were sewing on to the children’s new clothing labels bearing their names and addresses, and small rosettes of green and red ribbon.”

But if the strikers saw Montefiore’s plan as the rescue it was, so too did the bosses and their friends. They resented this attempt to deprive them of one of their traditional weapons—the power to weaken and break the spirit of strikers and their wives by forcing them to  watch while their children starved and wasted. More: they saw the chance to whip up a political and sectarian scandal as a weapon to undermine “Larkin” by lining up Catholic lreland against him. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Gypsy’ child-abduction claims: time to just stop and think for a moment…

October 24, 2013 at 8:50 am (children, Civil liberties, conspiracy theories, Jim D, Racism, travellers)

Statement from the European Roma Rights Centre:
ERRC Urges Restraint and Responsible Reporting in Child Removal Cases

22 October 2013

Budapest, 22 October 2013: The ERRC is concerned by increasing reports of children being removed from Roma families, following reports about a child taken from her home in a Romani settlement in Greece. Another child has since been removed from her home in Ireland, according to media reports.

We ask the media to act responsibly in reporting the situation, especially as the full facts of the original case have still not been established.

The ERRC is aware of at least one report from Serbia where skinheads tried to take away a two-year old boy from his parents because he was “not as dark as his parents”. Irresponsible reporting could have severe, negative consequences for Roma families across Europe.

If a crime has been committed in Greece, and this is still by no means clear, those who committed it should be treated as individuals, not as representatives of their ethnicity. Such a case could arise in any racial, ethnic, religious or national group.

Criminality is not related to ethnicity. Roma children are, however, much more likely to be put into state care, trapped in segregated education, and forcibly evicted from their homes. These are the stories that don’t make it to the front page.

We urge restraint, and we urge all local authorities, media outlets and other stakeholders to fully examine the facts before acting.

***********************************************************************************************

From the BBC website:
DNA tests prove Dublin Roma girl is part of family

23 October

DNA tests have proved that a seven-year-old girl taken from a Roma family in Dublin on Monday is their daughter.
The family said they were “delighted” that their daughter had come home.

They also said they would be taking legal advice, and that serious questions have arisen over the procedures used in the case.

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl had been removed by police from her Tallaght home and taken into temporary care.

The family have supported calls from human rights group Pavee Point for an independent inquiry into the investigation.

In a statement issued through their solicitor the family said: “Her removal has been a cause of huge upset to her parents, her brothers and sisters, and the young girl herself.

“They now intend to concentrate on looking after their family and, in particular, in trying to reassure their daughter that she will be left in their care.

Distraught

“Our clients also wish to say they do not believe that what has happened to their family over the few days should ever have happened.

“They do not accept that this was any proper or sufficient basis to take their daughter away from them.

“They believe that there are very serious questions arising about the procedures used in this case but are going to wait for things to settle down and consider their position and that of their daughter in light of recent events and will be taking legal advice in respect of this.”

A 21-year-old sister of the child, who can not be identified for legal reasons, said their mother had not eaten for three days because she was so distraught.

“Everyone was very sad,” she said. The sister added she hoped no other family would have to go through a similar ordeal.

Report

Meanwhile, a two-year-old boy from a Roma family who was briefly taken into care in County Westmeath has been reunited with his parents.

The boy was taken from his family on Tuesday in Athlone and returned a day later.

Alan Shatter, the Irish minister for justice, said he will be asking the Garda (Police) Commissioner for a report on the two cases.

A Garda statement said: “Protecting vulnerable children is of paramount importance to An Garda Síochána and we continue to work in partnership with the HSE (Health Service Executive) and other agencies to ensure children’s safety.

“An Garda Síochána want to assure the community that we take extremely serious all reports received from members of the public concerning child welfare issues.”

The Irish police action took place against the background of international interest in the case of a blonde-haired child being taken from a Roma family in Greece last week.

Greek police are investigating whether the girl had been abducted

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Wadjda: a critique of multiculturalism

July 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm (children, cinema, civil rights, Cycling, Feminism, film, Human rights, liberation, Middle East, misogyny, multiculturalism, secularism, women)

By Andrew Coates (reblogged from Tendance Coatsey)

Wadjda: Joyous and Free.

Wadjda is  pioneering film by Saudi Arabia’s first female director, Haifaa Al-Mansour. She  is also the first person to shoot a full-length feature in the country itself.

The picture is  wonderful. It also raises serious political and cultural issues.

Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a 10-year-old. She is referred to in reviews as  ”sparky” and “rebellious” and, somewhat patronisingly, a “sweet scamp”.

She reminded me of Marjane Satrap in Persepolis - someone  with the humour and wit to stand up for herself against the dead hand of religious pressure.

In that film Marji faced the power of Khomeni’s Iranian Islamists.

In Wadjda  the heroine has to live with the Saudi educational system and the male-dominated world of orthodox Islam.

The latter appears in the trap her mother is caught in: a life dependent on the good will of her husband, a daily commute provided by a Pakistani driver who speaks broken Arabic, and  her fears about him searching for another wife.

For her daughter we see  the continuous surveillance of her dress, and the sudden appearance of the religious police when Wadjda is seen playing around with a boy.

The scenario revolves around Wadja’s efforts to buy a bicycle.

Bikes are, naturally, not seen as suitable for modest women.

Listening to “satanic” rock music she plots to raise the cash. But selling football team colour bracelets does not get her far.

Her efforts also get ensnared by  her pious head mistress – whose constant enforcement  of the Islamic ‘modesty’ codes go against the fibre of the young rebel.

Wadjda hears that winning a  Qur’an  knowledge and recital competition could deliver her the money.

She suddenly becomes pious and sets out for victory.

As her project gets underway there are plenty of moments with a  political message.

With an admiring friend, a young boy, they pass a celebration of a suicide bomber’s death. He remarks that the martyr will  be enjoying 72 virgins in paradise.

Wadjda looks at him wryly and says,”Does that mean I’ll get 72 bicycles in heaven?”

It’s hard not to relate the film to recent discussion about multiculturalism.

It is the right thing to defend plural cultural identities, and, specifically, groups targeted by the Church and King mob of the English Defence League.

But do we want to defend those who wish to introduce a moral police like that of Saudi Arabia?

The curriculum followed by Wadjda is present in this country, in Saudi linked  schools – right up to their textbooks. It’s hard not to imagine that the religious policing that goes with it is not present.

Wadjda shows  how women can be joyous and free.

Like the Iranian film by Jafar Panahi Offside it expresses the universal hopes for human freedom.

And it does so beautifully.

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Expert comment on Egypt…from a 12-year-old

July 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm (children, civil rights, democracy, Egypt, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, protest, secularism, youth)

There seems to be some doubt as to exactly when 12-year-old Ali Ahmed made these comments about “fascist theocracy,” sexual inequality, the new constitution and other matters in Egypt. The video has been attracting attention this week and the Independent‘s John Walsh stated that Ali was “interviewed this week for El Wady News.”

However, the video was first posted on Youtube on March 21st, so it clearly pre-dates the big demonstrations that led to the overthrow of Morsi

Anyway, young Mr Ahmed is incredibly well-informed, articulate and progressive in his opinions:

Where did he get his information and opinions from, asks the astonished interviewer: “I listen to people a lot and use my brain. I read newspapers, watch TV and search the internet” comes the confident reply.

 

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Today, we celebrate with Malala

July 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm (anti-fascism, children, Civil liberties, Education, good people, Human rights, Jim D, Sheer joy, solidarity, truth, UN, women, youth)

From A World At School

Sign Malala's birthday card

16 years old today…

…and here’s her inspirational speech to the UN today:

Shame, shame, shame on those people on the so-called “left” who’ve ever expressed any degree of sympathy, support  for, or ‘contextualisation’ of the actions of, the child-killers and gynophobic barbarians of the Taliban: yes, I mean you fucking shower, the SWP, Workers Power, the ISG and degenerate ‘Labour’ MP Jeremy Corbyn.

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